Study on Rare Earths and their Recycling


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Study on Rare Earths and their Recycling

  1. 1. Study on Rare Earths and TheirRecyclingFinal Report for The Greens/EFA Group Darmstadt, January 2011in the European Parliament Öko-Institut e.V.Authors : Freiburg Head Office P.O. Box 17 71Dr. Doris Schüler 79017 Freiburg. Germany Tel. +49 (0) 7 61 – 45 295 - 0Dr. Matthias Buchert Fax +49 (0) 7 61 – 45 295 - 88 Street AddressDipl.-Ing. Ran Liu Merzhauser Str. 173 79100 Freiburg. GermanyDipl.-Geogr. Stefanie Dittrich Tel. +49 (0) 761 – 45 295 - 0 Fax +49 (0) 761 – 45 295 - 88Dipl.-Ing. Cornelia Merz Darmstadt Office Rheinstraße 95 64295 Darmstadt. Germany Tel. +49 (0) 6151 – 81 91 - 0 Fax +49 (0) 6151 – 81 91 - 33 Berlin Office Schicklerstr. 5-7 10179 Berlin. Tel. +49 (0) 30 – 40 50 85 - 0 Fax +49 (0) 30 – 40 50 85 -
  2. 2. AcknowledgementsAuthorsDr. Doris Schüler (Öko-Institut e.V.)Dr. Matthias Buchert (Öko-Institut e.V.)Dipl.-Ing. Ran Liu (Öko-Institut e.V.)Dipl.-Geogr. Stefanie Dittrich (Öko-Institut e.V.)Dipl.-Ing. Cornelia Merz (Öko-Institut e.V.)AssistanceNicole Neurohr (Öko-Institut e.V.)Vanessa Cook (Öko-Institut e.V.)We would like to thank the following colleagues for their input and constructivecomments:Dr. Georg Mehlhart (Öko-Institut e.V.)Dipl.-Ing. Gerhard Schmidt (Öko-Institut e.V.)Dipl.-Geogr. Andreas Manhart (Öko-Institut e.V.)For further information please contact:Dr. Doris SchülerInfrastructure & Enterprises DivisionÖko-Institut e.V. Darmstadt officeEmail: d.schueler@oeko.deNote: Within the scope of this study, Öko-Institut has used and assessed numerous primarysources in a carefully neutral fashion, complying all the time with established principles ofresearch. Nevertheless Öko-Institut cannot guarantee that the forecasted will actually occur,particularly in the case of the supply-and-demand-balance, since –– as the study shows ––there are numerous factors of influence which can change at short notice..
  3. 3. Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingI List of ContentsII Executive Summary I - VIIII Final Report1 Introduction 12 Methodologies for determination of criticality 33 Reserves 73.1 Global reserves 73.2 Reserves in China 83.3 Reserves outside of China 134 Mining data 184.1 World production 184.2 Mining in China 194.3 Mining activities outside of China 205 Global rare earth processing 255.1 Rare earth processing in China 255.1.1 Production statistics 255.1.2 The Chinese policy concerning the rare earth processing industry 30 Entry criteria for rare earth industry 30 The 2009-2015 plans for developing the rare earth industry 315.2 Rare earth processing outside of China 326 Rare earth trade 356.1 Global rare earths imports 356.2 Global rare earth exports 36 1
  4. 4. 2 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling6.2.1 Chinese rare earth exports 366.2.2 Non-Chinese rare earth exports 386.3 Development of prices 397 Environmental aspects of rare earth mining and processing 427.1 Overview of the main process steps in mining and processing 427.2 Environmental risks 437.3 Environmental aspects of mining and processing in China 477.3.1 Overview 477.3.2 Implemented technologies for mining and processing in China 487.3.3 Bayan Obo mine 497.3.4 Sichuan mine 507.3.5 Ion adsorption deposits 507.3.6 Waste water from REE separation and refining 517.3.7 Chinese environmental policy 51 Entry criteria for rare earth industry 51 The 2009-2015 plans for developing the rare earth industry 52 Emission standards of pollutants from rare earths industry 537.3.8 Chinese research activities on clean production of rare earths 537.4 Environmental aspects of mining and processing outside of China 557.4.1 General outlook 557.4.2 Mountain Pass, California, USA 567.4.3 Mount Weld, Australia and processing in Malaysia 577.4.4 Kvanefjeld, Greenland 587.5 Resource efficiency 598 Applications and demand of rare earths 628.1 Overview of applications and their demand in 2008 628.2 Magnets 668.2.1 Electric and hybrid electric vehicles 678.2.2 Wind turbines 698.2.3 Hard disks and electronic components with Nd-magnets 718.2.4 Magnetic cooling 728.2.5 Compilation of forecasts for the field of Nd-magnets 738.3 Phosphors and luminescence 758.4 Metal alloys / batteries 778.4.1 Ni-MH batteries 78
  5. 5. 3 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling8.4.2 Other appliances 798.4.3 Overall forecast 798.5 Catalysts 798.6 Glass, polishing and ceramics 808.7 Others 829 Demand-supply balance 849.1 Future supply 849.2 Future demand 889.3 Future demand-supply balance 8910 Substitution and efficient use of rare earths 9310.1 Overview 9310.2 Magnets for motors and generators 9310.2.1 Motor and generator types 9310.2.2 Substitution of rare earths magnets in motors for electric vehicles 9510.2.3 Substitution of rare earths in generators for wind turbines 9610.2.4 Substitution of dysprosium and terbium in permanent magnets 9710.2.5 Substitution of neodymium magnets by SmCo magnets 9810.2.6 Substitution of rare earths demands by enhanced process efficiencies 9910.3 Magnets in electronic devices, mainly disk drives 9910.4 Batteries 10010.5 Lighting and luminescence 10110.5.1 Fluorescent lamps 10210.5.2 Electro-luminescence 10310.6 Catalysts 10311 Recycling of rare earths –– current situation 10511.1 Recycling of rare earths from magnets 10511.2 Recycling of rare earths from batteries 10611.3 Recycling of rare earths from lighting and luminescence 10711.4 Recycling of rare earths from catalysts 10711.5 Recycling of rare earths from other applications 10811.6 Challenges for an efficient rare earths recycling 10812 Strategy for a sustainable rare earth economy 11112.1 Background 111
  6. 6. 4 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling12.2 Development of recycling schemes 11212.2.1 European competence network on rare earth 11312.2.2 Basic research on rare earth processing 11412.2.3 European material flow analysis 11412.2.4 Identification of initial products 11412.2.5 Development of collection and pre-treatment schemes 11512.2.6 Development of pilot plants 11512.2.7 Financial issues 11512.2.8 Legal framework 11612.2.9 Large scale implementation 11712.3 Strategy for enabling a more efficient use of rare earth and substitution 11912.4 International aspects 12012.4.1 Co-operation with China on sustainable rare earth mining 12012.4.2 Promotion of environmentally-friendly mining 12112.4.3 Supporting sustainable development in Greenland 12313 Literature 125List of ConclusionsConclusion on methodologies for determination of criticality 6Conclusion on reserves 17Conclusion on mining 24Conclusion on global rare earth processing 34Conclusion on rare earth trade 41Conclusion on environmental aspects of rare earth mining and processing 61Conclusion on applications and demand of rare earths 83Conclusion on the demand-supply balance 92Conclusion on substitution and efficient use of rare earths 104Conclusion on current situation of rare earth recycling 110Conclusion on the development of a recycling scheme 118Conclusion on recommended international activities 124
  7. 7. 5 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingList of FiguresFigure 1 Steps towards a European rare earth recycling scheme IVFigure 2 Rare earth elements and their position in the periodic table 2Figure 3 Global rare earth reserves by country estimated by USGS (2010a) 7Figure 4 Distribution of major rare earth resources in China 9Figure 5 Rare earth composition of bastnaesite at Bayan Obo/Inner Mongolia (Wang 2009) 12Figure 6 Rare earth composition of two ore deposits in the Jiangxi Province in southern China (Wang 2009) 12Figure 7 Reserve estimations of selected deposits which are compliant with the JORC code according to Alkane (2010b) 15Figure 8 Global production of rare earth oxides [in thousand t] (Angerer et al 2009) 19Figure 9 Share of individual rare earth oxides at the Chinese production in 2006 (MEP 2009) 26Figure 10 Process steps and national shares of neodymium magnet production (GAO 2010, Molycorp 2010c) 33Figure 11 Share of different EU countries in the total rare earth compounds imported by the EU-27 (Eurostat 2010) 36Figure 12 Gross exportation volume of rare earths from 1979 to 2008 in China (Chen 2010) 37Figure 13 Prices for lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, europium, dysprosium and terbium oxides from 2001-2010 39Figure 14 Main process steps in REE mining and processing 42Figure 15 Risks of rare earth mining without or with insufficient environmental protection systems 44Figure 16 Global demand of rare earths by volume from 2006 to 2008, in t REO per year 62Figure 17 Global applications of rare earth elements (compiled by Öko- Institut) 63Figure 18 Global demand of rare earths in terms of economic value in 2008 according to Kingsnorth (2010) 64Figure 19 Demand of rare earths per volume in China in t REO in 2008 (Chen 2010) 65Figure 20 Global wind power capacities in June 2010 (WWEA 2010b) 69Figure 21 Newly installed wind power capacity in the first half of 2010 (WWEA 2010b) 70Figure 22 Expected advantages of magnetic cooling 73Figure 23 Steps towards a European rare earth recycling scheme 113
  8. 8. 6 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingList of TablesTable 3-1 Distribution of REE reserves in tons REO (MEP 2009) 8Table 3-2 REE resources in China: types of minerals and ore grades (Lin 2009) 10Table 3-3 The distribution of ion adsorption deposits in the South of China (MEP 2009) 10Table 3-4 Components of China’s major rare earth minerals in REO% (Wang 2009) 11Table 3-5 Rare earth reserves by countries according to USGS (2010a) 13Table 3-6 Yttrium reserves by countries according to USGS (2010b) 14Table 4-1 World production of rare earths 2008 and 2009 (USGS 2010a) 18Table 4-2 Chinese production of rare earth concentrates from the different types of minerals from 2000 to 2007 in t REO 20Table 4-3 Selected current pre-mining activities outside of China (compiled by Öko-Institut) 22Table 5-1 Production of rare earth carbonate and chloride from 1987 to 2006 in t REO (MEP 2009) 27Table 5-2 Production of major rare earth oxides from 1986 to 2006 in t REO (MEP 2009) 28Table 5-3 Production of polishing powder and metal alloys from 1987 to 2006 in t REO (MEP 2009) 29Table 5-4 Production of major single rare earth metals from 1987 to 2006 in t REO (MEP 2009) 30Table 5-5 Selected industrial activities in rare earth processing in Europe 32Table 6-1 Imports of rare earth compounds of Europe, United States and Japan in 2008 35Table 6-2 Chinese rare earths exports of state and foreign-invested enterprises from 2008 - 2010 (MOFCOM 2010b) 37Table 6-3 Export quota only for domestic Chinese-invested enterprises for 2008, 2009 and the first half of 2010 (MOFCOM 2010b) 38Table 6-4 Exports of semi-products of rare earths of Japan, USA and Europe in 2008 39Table 6-5 Prices of selected rare earths oxides on 22 Nov 2010* 40Table 6-6 Prices of selected rare earths metals on 22 Nov 2010* 40Table 7-1 Major risks of REE mining and processing with insufficient environmental techniques 46Table 7-2 Overview of mining, extraction and separation methods adopted in Chinas rare earth industry (compiled based on MEP 2009) 48Table 8-1 Application of rare earths in China in 2007 and 2008 (Chen 2010) 66
  9. 9. 7 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingTable 8-2 Compilation of estimates for the demand of magnet applications (in t/a) 74Table 8-3 Overview of main applications in the group “glass, polishing and ceramics” 80Table 8-4 Overview of main applications in the group „others “ 82Table 9-1 Forecasted supply in 2014 stated by Kingsnorth (2010) and Lynas (2010a) 87Table 9-2 Forecasted demand in 2014 by Kingsnorth (2010) and Lynas (2010a) 88Table 9-3 Forecasted supply-demand balance for individual rare earths in 2014 by Kingsnorth (2010) and Lynas (2010a) 89
  10. 10. 8 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingList of Abbreviations°C degree Celsiusa anno = yearAFP Analytical fingerprintBAM Barium magnesium aluminateCAT Cerium magnesium aluminateCe CeriumCFL Compact fluorescent lampsCo CobaltDy Dysprosiume.g. exempli gratia = for examplee-bikes electric bikesEC European CommissionEIB European Investment BankEL electro-luminescenceELV End of life vehiclee-mobility electric mobilityEr Erbiumetc et ceteraEu EuropiumEU-27 Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, SlovakiaEV Electric VehicleFCC Fluid cracking catalystGd GadoliniumGMEL Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd.Hci coercivityHCl Hydrochloric acidHDD Hard disk driveHEV Hybrid Electric VehicleHID High intensity discharge (lamp)Ho Holmium
  11. 11. 9 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingHREE Heavy Rare Earth ElementHTS High temperature superconductorJOGMEC Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National CorporationJORC Australasian Joint Ore Reserves CommitteeK PotassiumkW KilowattLa LanthanumLAP Lanthanum phosphateLCD Liquid crystal displayLED Light Emitting DiodeLi-ion battery Lithium ion batteryLREE Light Rare Earth ElementLu LutetiumMFA Material flow analysismg MilligramMio MillionMRI Magnetic resonance imagingn.d. No data availableNd NeodymiumNdFeB Neodymium ferrium boronnGy/h Nanogray per hour (Gamma dose rate)NH3 AmmoniaNH4+ Ammonium ionNi NickelNi-MH battery Nickel metal-hydride batteryOLED Organic light emitting diodePHEV Plug-in hybrid electric vehiclePm PromethiumPr PraseodymiumR&D Research and developmentRa RadiumREE Rare earth elementREO Rare earth oxide (common trade unit)
  12. 12. 10 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingRMB Renminbi = official currency of the People´s Republic of China; principal unit is YuanSc ScandiumSm SamariumSOFC Solid oxide fuel cellSSD Solid state driveSSEEC Solid state energy efficient coolingt Metric tonsTb TerbiumTh ThoriumTm ThuliumTREO Total rare earth oxideU UraniumUK United KingdomUNEP United Nations Environment ProgrammeVCM Voice-coil-motorWEEE Waste Electrical and Electronic EquipmentY YttriumYb YtterbiumYOE Yttrium europium oxide
  13. 13. 11 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  14. 14. I Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingThe focus of this study for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament lies on thedevelopment of a European strategy for a sustainable rare earth economy. It particularlyaddresses the recycling, the substitution and the efficient use of rare earths and develops astrategy towards a green rare earth economy.The rare earth elements under analysis in this study by Öko-Institut include the 17 elementsyttrium (Y), lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium(Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy),holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu) and scandium (Sc) andthe role they play in the case of green technologies.The chapters 1 to 9 provide a comprehensive overview of methodological approaches toassess the criticality as well as global aspects such as rare earth mining, processing, trade,environmental impacts, applications, current and future demand and the expected demand-supply balance. Each chapter culminates in a conclusion, by means of which the reader cangain a quick overview of its contents. These data are not summarised in the executivesummary. Instead, the executive summary focuses on the main target of the study, thedevelopment of a European strategy for a sustainable rare earth economy.BackgroundDuring recent years technological innovations resulted in manifold applications using rareearths which lead to a steep increase in their demand. A relevant share of the increasingdemand is caused by so-called “green technologies” which are designed to contribute toenvironmental protection in terms of reduction of the energy consumption, the furtherdevelopment of renewable energy carriers or air pollution control. There is serious concernthat the demand of some individual rare earth elements such as neodymium, praseodymium,dysprosium, terbium, lanthanum, yttrium and europium might exceed the present supplywithin a few years. Even if China imposes no export restrictions it is to be expected that theincreasing demand up to 2014 can only be met if further mines in addition to the two plannedmines in Australia and USA are opened. The two mines in Australia and the USA havealready obtained approval from the national authorities and started construction works sothat large scale operation can commence around 2012.The high demand and the expected supply shortages, additionally triggered by Chineseexport restrictions, lead to a significant increase in rare earth prices. This steep increase isnot only a burden for manufacturers and consumers. It offers the chance to address theproblem of today’s rare earth supply in more depth and to build up a sustainable rare eartheconomy in all relevant sectors. The low prices in the past lead to a significant waste ofresources. Until now, there has been almost no recycling of rare earths. The new pricesmight be a starting point to building up recycling systems for rare earth compounds. Similarly,
  15. 15. II Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingscience and industry are beginning to conduct research and development on options for asubstitution of rare earth.The high public interest in this issue further revealed the high environmental burden in thesurrounding of the Chinese mines and processing plants. If the EU demands rare earthcompounds for their green technology, it is up to the EU to contribute to a “greener” rareearth supply. The contradiction between the “green” application of rare earth and their highenvironmental pressures in production calls for action to be taken particularly by Europe,America and Japan where – besides China – the majority of the rare earths are consumed.The action in the fields of recycling should be started now without further delay as it will takea minimum of five to ten years for the first large-size implementation to take place. Theresearch for substitution options and efficiency should also be reinforced as soon as possibleas it takes some years to move from successful research to industrial implementation.Analysis of the substitution of rare earths and their efficient useThe examination of substitutions for scarce REE has shown that there is quite rarely a simplesubstitution of a REE compound by another compound. In most cases substitution requires atotally new product design. The identified options for substitution in the case of the majorgreen applications are summarised below: Rare earths are currently used in around 14 % of newly installed wind turbines with a gear-less design and technical advantages in terms of reliability. A supply shortage of rare earths would lead to a shift to alternative turbine types. Further research on a higher reliability of traditional techniques with gears would support this substitution. Rare earths are used in permanent motors of hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles. Substitutions based on alternative electric motor designs are principally available. However, R&D is required for a higher performance of existing electric motor types and for the realisation of new motor concepts. Most new energy-efficient lighting systems contain rare earths (compact fluorescent lamp, LED, plasma display, LCD display). Substitutions are rare, particularly for compact fluorescent lamps. R&D is required for alternative phosphors with high efficiency and high light quality. Automotive catalysts contain cerium, and catalysts for petroleum cracking and other industrial processes contain lanthanum. Substitutions are rare, and R&D is urgently required for alternative catalysts.Concerning a higher efficiency of the rare earth use, R&D is urgently needed in all fields ofapplication and is also needed on the supply side to enable higher efficiencies in mining,beneficiation and processing. One example for high losses in the production chain is thetraditional magnet production in China.
  16. 16. III Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingNanotechnology is considered to be applied in some green applications in order to raise theefficiency by nano-sized rare earths. An attendant risk assessment is highly recommended.Analysis of the current recycling activities of rare earthsOnly a few industrial recycling activities are currently implemented for rare earths. Until now,there has been no large scale recycling of rare earths from magnets, batteries, lighting andcatalysts. Principally, the recycling processes for the rare earths are quite complex andextensive if re-use is not possible and a physical and chemical treatment is necessary. Mostof the recycling procedures are energy-intensive processes. The main post-consumeractivities – the recycling of rare earths from electric motors and hard disks and otherelectronic components – will require intensive dismantling.Several constraints for a wider recycling of rare earths were identified: the need for anefficient collection system, the need for sufficiently high prices for primary and secondaryrare earths compounds, losses of post-consumer goods by exports in developing countriesand the long lifetime of products such as electric motors in vehicles and wind turbines of10 - 20 years before they could enter the recycling economy.Advantages of recyclingThe recycling of rare earths has several advantages in comparison to the use of primaryresources: Europe is one of the globally large consumers of rare earths. Increasing amounts of waste from final products containing rare earths are arising in Europe. These valuable resources should be returned to the industrial metabolism by “urban mining”. The dependency on foreign resources will be reduced by supplying the European market with secondary rare earth materials. Apart from a few specialised industries and applications, the know-how in rare earth processing is quite low in Europe. The building up of know-how in recycling will widen the competency of enterprises and scientific institutions in Europe concerning rare earth processing. The processing of secondary rare earths will be free from radioactive impurities. The mining and further processing of primary rare earths is involved in most cases with nuclear radiation coming from radioactive elements of the natural deposits. The recycling requires some energy carriers and chemicals. On the other hand it saves significant amounts of energy, chemicals and emissions in the primary processing chain. It is to be expected that most recycling processes will have a high net-benefit concerning air emissions, groundwater protection, acidification, eutrophication and climate protection.
  17. 17. IV Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingStrategy for the development of a European rare earth recycling schemeÖko-Institut suggests that a recycling scheme as illustrated in Figure 1 should be developed. European material flow analysis Identification of stakeholders Identification of initial products to be recycled European Development of pretreatment & collection schemes Competence Basic Network on research Rare Earth Installation of pilot plants for recycling / R&D Promotion Financial support Improvement of legal framework in EU Implementation of large scale collection and recycling for initial productsFigure 1 Steps towards a European rare earth recycling schemeThe main steps prior to large-scale implementation are described here in brief: A European Competence Network on Rare Earths with all relevant stakeholders such as recyclers, manufacturers, public authorities, politicians and researchers is seen as essential for a successful implementation. Basic research is necessary, as only a few companies in Europe are involved in rare earth refining and processing at the beginning of the added-value chain. A European material flow analysis (MFA) is necessary in order to identify in more detail the main material flows and waste streams and the main manufacturers and actors in the added-value chain. Currently, national research institutions have to rely on estimates from a few experts outside of Europe. The next step is the identification of initial waste streams on the pre-consumer and post-consumer level, e.g. waste from the magnet and lighting production, magnets from used electric motors, used lamps and screens, re-use of large magnets and recycling of spent catalysts.
  18. 18. V Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling The treatment of many relevant wastes is already regulated by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (hereafter WEEE), the EU End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELV) and the EU Battery Directive. Thus, the collection of rare earths containing wastes has to be integrated in existing collection schemes. The development of pilot plants is accompanied by large-scale R&D projects which aim to gain more insight into the complex chemical processes and the required sophisticated equipment. Recycling plants bear high financial risks due to the required high investment and the high uncertainty of the future price development of rare earths. Therefore, it should be analysed whether the European Investment Bank (EIB) could reduce financial risks for investments in rare earth recycling. A recycling scheme of rare earths not only requires adequate logistic and technical preconditions but also an appropriate legal framework. Hence, an important step will be the adaption of the legal EU framework in order to optimise post-consumer rare earth recycling. Potential relevant directives which should be verified in terms of modification for the support of a rare earth recycling scheme are the Ecodesign Directive, the WEEE Directive, the ELV Directive and the Battery Directive.Recommendations for international activitiesThe development of a sustainable rare earth supply for Europe concerning environmental,social and security aspects requires a solid international co-operation. Important partners forthe EU in facing this challenge are not only China but also Japan and the United States.Öko-Institut suggests three selected activities: Öko-Institut proposes an EU-China co-operation on sustainable mining which is designed as a large-size co-operation focusing on the sustainable mining of rare earths at one specific site with the target to optimise the efficiency, the environmental performance, the remediation of contaminated sites and the potential recovery of rare earths from old tailings. The EC would supply co-funding and expertise, and China would agree on an adequate rare earth supply. Green technologies call for “green metals”, and Europe should support a sustainable mining. Worldwide, there are manifold initiatives for sustainable mining. Among them are certification schemes addressing different problems such as environmental aspects, small-scale mining, safety issues and human rights. There is increasing interest in politics and industry on certified minerals, and today’s mining companies could be interested in certification schemes or similar co-operations with EU participation in order to highlight their environmental efforts. The high pressure on the opening of new mines outside of China by the steeply increasing demand raises the concern that new mines could be opened which do not
  19. 19. VI Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingkeep minimum environmental standards. One case could be the Kvanefjeld deposit inGreenland where the residues from the ore concentration (tailings) shall be stored in anatural lake with connection to the sea. The EU and the European EnvironmentalAgency (EEA), which has a general co-operation with Greenland, should appeal clearlyto the Greenlandic authorities to act carefully and responsibly.
  20. 20. I Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingFINAL REPORT
  21. 21. 1 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling1 IntroductionIn the last seven years international discussions about mineral resources with a special focuson metals have gained a new dimension.1 Driven by the growth of the global economy andthe enhanced pace of the emerging economies (China, India, Brazil, etc.), the global demandfor many metals is increasing rapidly and the most forecasts predict further growth of metalconsumption. Besides well-known mass metals like steel or aluminium, new challenges in thefield of the so-called critical metals are under serious concerns. The EC defines the“criticality” of raw materials in its recent publication “Critical raw materials for the EU” (EC2010): ““This means that raw material is labelled ““critical”” when the risks of supply shortageand their impacts on the economy are higher compared with most of the other raw materials.””It could be stated that in many cases the discussions about critical metals are linked withnew innovations and technologies – very often in the field of green technologies like electricvehicles, wind power, PV and many others. Therefore in many relevant publicationssynonyms like “green minor metals”, “specialty metals”, “technology metals” and “raremetals” are used for the term “critical metals”. As part of the activities of the EC’s “RawMaterials Initiative”, the Ad-hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials ranked 14raw materials at EC level as the most critical metals (EC 2010). This group of 14 rawmaterials contains the whole group of rare earth elements (REE).The rare earth elements under analysis in this study by Öko-Institut for the Greens/EFAGroup in the European Parliament include the 17 elements: yttrium (Y), lanthanum (La),cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium 2 (Pm), samarium (Sm),europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er),thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu) and scandium (Sc).The large group of the REE is sub-divided into the heavy rare earth elements (HREE) andthe light rare earth elements (LREE). Unfortunately there is no worldwide accepted definitionfor which REE belongs to the HREE or the LREE group. Therefore, crosschecks of data fromdifferent sources which refers to facts and figures and so on about HREE and LREE have tobe carried out very carefully to avoid failures and misinterpretations (this holds especially forthe contribution of yttrium). For this study Öko-Institut uses the definition of the USGS (USGS2002), which defines yttrium (Y), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium(Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu) as HREE and lanthanum (La),cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), andscandium (Sc) as LREE.1 See, for instance, the special website developed by Öko-Institut: Promethium does not occur in nature as no stable isotope exists.
  22. 22. 2 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling LREE REE HREEFigure 2 Rare earth elements and their position in the periodic tableNevertheless, within the “Study on Rare Earth Metals and Recycling” Öko-Institut providesfacts and figures, results and interpretations for the different REE as far as is possible. Thisapproach recognises the fact that a handling of the criticality of the REE as a group of 17elements or as sub-groups (HREE and LREE) is not sufficient for the numerous challengesand tasks regarding green technologies, demand growth, possible supply scarcities andenvironmental issues of mining and recycling.
  23. 23. 3 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling2 Methodologies for determination of criticalityAgainst the background of rapid demand growths, increasing prices and possible supplyrestrictions of certain metals with high potential for future technologies having receivedincreasing attention by media, scientists, enterprises and the politics, several classificationsystems to rank the numerous raw materials and metals have been developed in recentyears. It should be mentioned that the purpose of these studies is not always the same undtherefore a one-by-one comparison of the results could not be undertaken. In most cases anational or regional point of view is the driving force behind the classifications systems forcriticality. For an overview the methodological approach of the report “Minerals, CriticalMinerals and the U.S. Economy” (National Academies 2008) and the approach of the Ad-hocWorking Group on defining critical raw materials (EC 2010) are selected. Finally an approachof Öko-Institut for the UNEP will be briefly introduced.In 2008 the National Academy of Sciences released a comprehensive report with the title“Minerals, Critical Minerals and the US Economy” (National Academies 2008). Themotivation for this study is reflected by the following excerpt of the study’s preface: ““In thetwenty-first century, the nature of the concerns over Earth resources has shifted once again.Energy and mineral commodity prices are relatively high for the first extended period sincethe 1970s, driven primarily by unexpectedly large demand growth in China, India, and othercountries. At the same time, while the United States remains an important producer ofenergy and mineral resources, the extraction and production of these resources overall hasshifted away from the United States toward other nations; U.S. import dependence for manycommodities has increased and has raised concerns about reliability of the foreign supply.””The driving force for the US study was clearly the assessment that the US economy facesincreasing dependence on raw materials imports. So, the whole study and including thereleased criticality matrix has to be considered in the context of this motivation.The US approach is based on two dimensions of criticality; importance in use andavailability. The dimension of importance in use reflects the idea that some non-fuel rawmaterials are more important in use than others. The authors pointed out that the possibilityof substitution is the key here. The second dimension, availability, includes several medium-to long-term considerations: geologic, technical, environmental, social, political and economicfactors have to be taken into account. In addition, the consideration of the reliability or risk ofsupply in the short term is important. On this basis the authors have developed a two-dimension criticality matrix. The criticality matrix, as established in this report, allowsevaluation of the criticality of a given mineral. A specific mineral or mineral product can beplaced on this matrix after assessing the impact of a potential restriction on the mineral’ssupply (importance in use: vertical axis) and the likelihood of a supply restriction (availability:horizontal axis). The degree of criticality increases as one moves from the lower-left to theupper-right corner of the matrix. The committee used a combination of quantitative measuresand expert (qualitative) judgement in implementing the matrix methodology. The rare earths
  24. 24. 4 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingwere determined by this methodology (as one of five out of 11 minerals or mineral groups) tofall in or near the critical zone of the criticality matrix.The US approach was applied in a report on the critical materials strategy from the USDepartment of Energy in 2010 (DOE 2010). It focuses on nine individual rare earth elementsand the metals gallium, tellurium, lithium, indium and cobalt and their importance to the cleanenergy economy.In July 2010 the EC published the report “Critical raw materials for the EU” which was workedout by the Ad-hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials (EC 2010). The EC reportprovides a pragmatic approach based on various existing methods. In line with other studies,the report puts forward a relative concept of criticality. This means that raw material islabelled “critical” when the risks of supply shortage and their impacts on the economy arehigher compared with most of the other raw materials. It considers three main aggregatedindicators or dimensions, i.e. the economic importance of the considered raw material, itssupply risk (for instance restrictive measures from resource-rich countries) and anenvironmental country risk assessing the potential for environmental measures that mayrestrain access to deposits or the supply of raw materials. These three aggregated indicatorsare calculated for each raw material.41 different raw materials were assessed by the Ad-hoc Working Group with this criticalityapproach based on the three main aggregated indicators/dimensions. In a first step the 41raw materials are positioned in a two-dimensional matrix comparable with the US approach(see above). The vertical axis reflects the positioning of the materials in relation to the supplyrisks that have been identified. The production of a material in few countries marked bypolitical and economic instability, coupled to a low recycling rate and low substitutability, willresult in a very high supply risk. The results show for the rare earths the highest rank amongall 41 assessed raw materials.The horizontal axis reflects the positioning of the material in relation to its importance to theEU. For this dimension the rare earths are in the midfield. From this two-dimensional matrix alist of 14 different raw materials including the rare earths are assessed as critical, becausethey are of high economic importance and have a high supply risk. Finally the environmentalcountry risk – the third indicator – was used to finish the determination of criticality. However,the overall result for the group of 14 was not altered by this indicator. It is important to notethat the rare earths were ranked as the raw material with the highest environmental countryrisk among all assessed 41 raw materials.
  25. 25. 5 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingIn 2009 Öko-Institut completed a study for UNEP entitled “Critical metals for futuresustainable technologies and their recycling potential” (Öko-Institut 2009). For theclassification of selected “green minor metals” with a potential for sustainable technologiesan own classification system with the three main pillars “demand growth”, “supply risks” and“recycling restrictions” was developed. To enable extensive classification and differentiationof the different metals, the following sub-criteria are taken into account by Öko-Institut: Demand growth o Rapid demand growth: > 50% increase of total demand until 2020 o Moderate demand growth > 20% increase of total demand until 2020 Supply risks o Regional concentration of mining (> 90% share of the global mining in the major three countries) o Physical scarcity (reserves compared to annual demand) o Temporary scarcity (time lag between production and demand) o Structural or technical scarcity (metal is just a minor product in a coupled production and inefficiencies occur often in the mining process, production and manufacturing) Recycling restrictions o High scale of dissipative applications o Physical/chemical limitations for recycling o Lack of suitable recycling technologies and/or recycling infrastructures o Lack of price incentives for recyclingIn contrast to other ranking systems this classification system are not based on a nationalpoint of view, which means the results are universal and not specific to a single country orregion. The availability of all REE could prove to be very critical following this approach forthe period up to 2020 (for details see: Öko-Institut 2009). Within the REE group theavailability of several elements could prove to be even more critical as the result of this reportsuggest.As a group the REE have already been ranked highest in terms of criticality by the EC in July2010 (EC 2010) and in previous assessments conducted by other organisations. Thisclassification is justified without any doubt. For this study for the Greens/EFA Group in theEuropean Parliament in late 2010 Öko-Institut has chosen an in-depth analysis approach forthe individual REE, because the REE schematic rankings of the whole group of REE are notsufficient to produce detailed results as a basis for strategies. Based on the detailed resultsthe proposed strategies for Europe regarding the REE are summarised in Chapter 12.
  26. 26. 6 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingConclusion on methodologies for determination of criticalityIn recent years, several classification systems were developed to rank numerous rawmaterials and metals in terms of their criticality. Examples of such ranking systems are thereport ““Minerals, Critical Minerals and the U.S. Economy”” by the National Academies 2008,the approach of the European Ad-hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials (EC2010), the approach of Öko-Institut for the UNEP and the recently published analysis ofcriticality of nine rare earth elements and five other metals by the US Department of Energy(DOE 2010). Due to their expected scarcity rare earths are taken into account in thesereports.There is a consensus in all approaches that some rare earth elements are critical or near-critical in terms of the supply risk and their importance for green technologies. Consequently,a more in-depth analysis which evaluates the criticality of the individual rare earth elementsis necessary in order to produce detailed results as basis for political strategies.
  27. 27. 7 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling3 ReservesCompany Project Location Cut-off Contained REO Production Start-up3.1 Global reservesUSGS (2010a) estimates the global reserves of the sum of all rare earth oxides to be at99 000 000 t REO. This is quite high compared to the estimated world production of124 000 t REO (USGS 2010a) in 2009. Hereby, the reserve is defined by the USGS as “thepart of the reserve base which could be economically extracted or produced at the time ofdetermination.” On the contrary, the reserve base not only comprises the resources that arecurrently economic (= reserves) but also marginally economic reserves, and some of thosethat are currently sub-economic. The reserve base was estimated to amount to150 000 000 t REO by USGS (2008). In 2009, reserve base estimates of the USGS werediscontinued.It is to be expected that both the reserve base and the reserve will increase in the yearsahead because the steep increases in REO prices lead to the exploration of new deposits.For example, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced in October 2010 that a newlarge rare earth deposit was found in Central China (MOFCOM 2010a). The rare earthreserves by country based on USGS (2010a) are shown in the following figure. other countries United States 22 Mio t REO 13 Mio t REO 22% 13% Australia 5,4 Mio t REO India 5% 3 Mio t REO 3% CIS China 19 Mio t REO 36 Mio t REO 19% 38%Figure 3 Global rare earth reserves by country estimated by USGS (2010a)Though the Chinese produce more than 95% of the global production, their share of thereserves is much lower at 38 %. Large deposits are also found in the USA, Australia andstates of the former Soviet Union.
  28. 28. 8 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingHowever, the figures on the total reserves which refer to the sum of all rare earth elementsdo not reflect the need for a detailed look on the supply of individual elements. As discussedlater in the study, shortages will be expected for some REE and their specific reserves are ofimportance.The following chapters will provide some reserve estimations for the group of heavy rareearth elements as well as Chinese reserve estimations. Unfortunately, the USGS, Chinese,Australian and Canadian institutions have different definitions of reserves, reserve base andresources, which make it difficult or even impossible to compare the different nationalreserve and resource statistics. International attempts to harmonise the classification3 are notdeveloped in so far that they already provide harmonised reserve data on rare earths.3.2 Reserves in ChinaMinistry of Environmental Protection (MEP 2009) presents data from the Chinese Society ofRare Earths (CSRE 2002) which indicate that China has 52 million tons of proved industrialreserves. The data are presented in Table 3-1.Table 3-1 Distribution of REE reserves in tons REO (MEP 2009) Provinces and regions Industrial reserves Measured reserves Inferred reserves Bayan Obo, Inner 43.5 million 106 million >135 million Mongolia Shandong 4 million 12.7 million >13 million Sichuan 1.5 million 2.4 million >5 million Seven Southern 1.5 million 8.4 million >50 million Provinces Others 1.5 million 2.2 million >3.7 million Total 52 million 131.7 million >206 millionAdditionally, geologists have discovered a large reserve of rare earths in central China’sHubei Province at the foot of Mountain Laoyin in Shiyan City (MOFCOM 2010a). The amountof the newly-found deposit was not known at the time this study was written. Therefore it isnot included in the above statistics.The Chinese statistics use their own classification for data on reserves which differs from theUSGS classification. This might be the main reason of the difference to the USGS data,which estimate the (economical) Chinese reserve to amount to 36 Mio t REO, whereas theChinese estimate their “industrial reserves” to amount to 52 Mio t REO. The table clearly3 E.g. the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO) and UN Framework Classification (UNFC) for Energy and Mineral Resources
  29. 29. 9 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingshows that the major reserves are in Inner Mongolia at Bayan Obo, where the world largestrare earth mine is already in operation.The next figure shows the regional distribution of the Chinese reserves. The newly found rare earths deposit Present important rare earths depositsFigure 4 Distribution of major rare earth resources in ChinaThe next table shows the average grades of the ores and the types of minerals from thedifferent provinces.
  30. 30. 10 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingTable 3-2 REE resources in China: types of minerals and ore grades (Lin 2009) Grades in % Province Mineral REE REO Inner Mongolia, Baotou, Bayan Bastnaesite and Light REE in Iron-Nb- 6 Obo Monazite LREE deposit Seven provinces, Southern Ion adsorption Middle and heavy REE 0.1-0.3 China deposit Light REE with high Sichuan Bastnaesite 6-8 grade La, Ce, Pr, Nd with high Shandong Bastnaesite 7-10 gradeThe Chinese describe the distribution of rare earth resources in China simply as “North Light,South Heavy”. That means that light rare earth resources (La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm, Eu) aremainly found in the north of the country, while in the south middle or heavy rare earths (Gd,Tb, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm, Yb, Lu, Sc, Y) are concentrated. The HREEs are extracted from ionadsorption deposits located in the seven provinces in the South of China (Jiangxi,Guangdong, Fujiang, Guangxi, Hunan, Yunnan and Zhejiang) (MEP 2009). The regionaldistribution of the HREE deposits is given in Table 3-3.Table 3-3 The distribution of ion adsorption deposits in the South of China (MEP 2009) Province Jiangxi Guangdong Fujian Guangxi Hunan Yunnan and Zhejiang Total Ratio in % 36 33 15 10 4 2 100An overview of the ore composition of the different rare earth containing minerals is given inTable 3-4.
  31. 31. 11 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingTable 3-4 Components of China’s major rare earth minerals in REO% (Wang 2009) Ion adsorption deposits Rare earth Bastnaesite Monazite Xenotime Longnan, Ganzhou, Xunwu, Ganzhou, oxides Jiangxi Province Jiangxi Province LREE La2O3 27.00 23.35 1.20 2.10 29.84 CeO2 50.00 45.69 8.00 1.00 7.18 Pr6O11 5.00 4.16 0.60 1.10 7.41 Nd2O3 15.00 15.72 3.50 5.10 30.18 Sm2O3 1.10 3.05 2.15 3.20 6.32 Eu2O3 0.20 0.10 <0.20 0.30 0.51 HREE Gd2O3 0.40 2.03 5.00 2.69 4.21 Tb4O7 — 0.10 1.20 1.13 0.46 Dy2O3 — 1.02 9.10 7.48 1.77 Ho2O3 — 0.10 2.60 1.60 0.27 Er2O3 1.00 0.51 5.60 4.26 0.88 Tm2O3 — 0.51 1.30 0.60 0.27 Yb2O3 — 0.51 6.00 3.34 0.62 Lu2O3 — 0.10 1.80 0.47 0.13 Y2O3 0.30 3.05 59.30 62.90 10.07The next figure illustrates the major element distribution for Chinas largest deposit, BayanObo in Inner Mongolia, which mainly consists of bastnaesite. Its element distribution isrepresentative for many light rare earth deposits.
  32. 32. 12 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling other REO (Y, Sm, Eu, Nd Gd, Er) 15% 3% Pr La 5% 27% Ce 50%Figure 5 Rare earth composition of bastnaesite at Bayan Obo/Inner Mongolia (Wang 2009)The ore composition is dominated by light rare earths, mainly cerium, lanthanum and smalleramounts of neodymium and praseodymium. Heavy rare earths such as gadolinium onlyoccur in very small shares. Concerning the heavy rare earths, the seven provinces in theSouth of China which mainly possess heavy rare earths hold 1.5 million tons of industrialreserves. These reserves are quite small compared to the overall reserves in China and onlyhave a share of about 3 % of the total reserves (see Table 3-1).The next figure shows the major element distribution for two Chinese ion adsorption depositsin Jiangxi Province containing significant HREE: Rare earth composition of ion adsorption deposits in Rare earth composition of ion adsorption deposits in Longnan/Jiangxi Province Xunwu/Jiangxi Province Ho,Er, Tm, Yb, Ho,Er, Tm, Lu Lu Tb, Dy Tb, Dy Yb Eu, Gd Y Eu, Gd Sm Sm Nd, Pr La La, Ce Y Nd, Pr CeFigure 6 Rare earth composition of two ore deposits in the Jiangxi Province in southern China (Wang 2009)
  33. 33. 13 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingThe two figures for the ion adsorption deposits in the Chinese Jiangxi Province show thelarge variety of HREE compositions.The only global production and reserve statistics for individual elements are available foryttrium. USGS (2010b) estimates that the Chinese reserves of yttrium amount to 220 000 tREO, which is equivalent to 41 % of the global reserves. The global mining of yttrium wasaround 8 900 t in 2008, with 8 800 t originating from China (USGS 2010b). Thus, thecalculated ratio between economical reserves and actual production is around 25. For thetotal Chinese reserves of all REE, the picture is completely different: There is an annualproduction of around 120 000 t in 2007/2008 versus an economical reserve of 36 Mio t(based on USGS definition). This makes a factor 300. This comparison convincingly showsthat the overall reserves are not the crucial issue. Instead, the pressing issue is the scarcityof some individual rare earths. As shown later, yttrium is one of the elements for whichpotential supply shortages are forecasted.3.3 Reserves outside of ChinaGlobal reserves of all rare earth elementsTable 3-5 presents the reserve estimates of the USGS for the different countries. The mainreserves outside of China occur in the United States, Australia, the states of the formerSoviet Union and other states. Due to the lack of precise reserve estimations the sum of“other countries” is quite high at 22 Mio t. There are a number of countries where largerdeposits are known. Among them are Canada, Greenland, South Africa and Malawi (BGS2010). More details on the deposits of the United States are presented in USGS (2010f).Table 3-5 Rare earth reserves by countries according to USGS (2010a)China 36 Mio t REOUnited States 13 Mio t REOAustralia 5.4 Mio t REOCIS (former Soviet Union) 19 Mio t REOIndia 3.1 Mio t REOBrazil 0.65 Mio t REOMalaysia 0.38 Mio t REOOther countries: 22 Mio t REO Canada, Greenland, South Africa, Malawi, Vietnam et al.Total outside of China 64 Mio t REOWorld total 99 Mio t REO
  34. 34. 14 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingReserves in the European UnionThere is only limited information on European rare earth deposits. The major findings arelisted below: The British Geological Survey (BGS 2010) states that there has been no systematic, comprehensive evaluation of REE resources in Britain. Though small occurrences are known, they have no demonstrated economic potential. Oakdene Hollins (2010) cites news published on the website Metal Pages (2009) that there are possible exploration activities in Ireland. The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR 2009) records a potential rare earth output of a maximum of 1 400 t per year as by-product of iron mining in the north of Sweden. The BGR (2009) reports on a German deposit in Saxony with probable resources of about 40 000 t REO with an average grade of 0.5 %. Orris & Grauch (2002) cited in BGR (2009) mention reserves in Norway and Turkey.Reserves of yttriumGlobally, there are no reserve estimations for individual REE except for yttrium. Theestimations for yttrium are presented in Table 3-6.Table 3-6 Yttrium reserves by countries according to USGS (2010b)China 220 000 t REO United States 120 000 t REO Australia 100 000 t REO India 72 000 t REO Malaysia 13 000 t REO Brazil 2 200 t REO Sri Lanka 240 t REO Other countries 17 000 t REOTotal outside of China 320 000 t REOWorld total 540 000 t REOReserves of light and heavy rare earthsPrincipally, all deposits contain much more LREE than HREE. The chemical composition ofthe most important deposits is already described in literature, e.g. in USGS (2010a) with adetailed share of the individual elements or in aggregated manner in Oakdene Hollins (2010),
  35. 35. 15 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingand will not be repeated here in detail. However, representative examples for orecompositions were given in Chapter 3.2 for some Chinese ores.Most of the deposits have a content of yttrium and other HREE of only a few percentages(see Table 3-4). The next figure gives an overview of the reserves of selected depositsoutside of China which are compliant to the Australian JORC code or to the Canadianstandard. The JORC code implies for the related deposits that appropriate assessments andstudies have been carried out, including the consideration of mining, metallurgical, economic,marketing, legal, environmental, social and governmental factors. In order to be compliantwith the JORC code, the assessments must demonstrate that an extraction could reasonablybe justified. The data are published by the Australian mining company Alkane (2010b). 6 5,5 14% HREO LREE 5 HREE 4,5(Mio t REO) 4 3,5 3 2,5 1% HREO 2 17% 3% 4% HREO HREO HREO 1,5 60% ? HREO 1 ? 7% HREO 0,5 0 Kvanefjeld Mountain Thor Lake Mt Weld Nolans Bore Dong Pao Dubbo Bear Lodge Hoidas Lake (Greenland) Pass (USA) (Canada) (Australia) (Australia) (Vietnam ) Zirconia (USA) (Canada) (Australia)Figure 7 Reserve estimations of selected deposits which are compliant with the JORC code according to Alkane (2010b)The major shares of the selected reserves of HREE are located at three sites according toAlkane (2010b): Kvanefjeld/Greenland, Thor Lake/Canada und Dubbo-Zirconia/Australia.The sum of these selected reserves is around 9.3 Mio t LREO and 800 000 t HREO (Alkane2010b). Thus, the selected LREE reserves exceed the HREE reserves approximately by the
  36. 36. 16 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingfactor twelve. The major element comprising around two thirds to the HREE-fraction isyttrium. The other HREE arise in much lower concentrations4.Further information on deposits where advanced exploration activities such as feasibilitystudies, laboratory tests or even construction works are already taking place is given inChapter 4.3.4 The Kvanefjield deposits contribute 7.7 % Y, 0.2 % Tb, 1.1 % Dy, 0.2 % Ho, 0.6 % Er, 0.1 % Tm and 0.5 % Yb according to GMEL (2010b). The Dubbo project and the Canadian Thor Lake project would produce an HREE with a share of Y amounting to around 2/3 (Alkane 2010a, Scott Wilson 2010).
  37. 37. 17 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingConclusion on reservesThe US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates the global reserves of the sum of all rareearth oxides to amount to 99 000 000 t REO. This is quite high compared to theestimated world production of 124 000 t REO in 2009. Hereby, the reserve is defined bythe USGS as ““the part of the reserve base which could be economically extracted orproduced at the time of determination.”” Unfortunately, there are different definitions of““reserves””, ““reserve base”” and ““resources”” globally which makes the comparison ofdifferent data sources difficult. Due to a lack of harmonised data this study refers to datafrom different classification schemes such as USGS estimations of global reserves,estimations on heavy rare earth elements (HREE) according to the Australian JORCcode and data on Chinese reserves according to Chinese definitions.The overall global reserves are spread with larger reserves in the United States, thestates from the former Soviet Union, China, Australia, India, Canada, Greenland, SouthAfrica, Malawi and other countries. However, the analysis showed that the total sum ofreserves is not relevant for the forecast of shortages of individual REE. Hence, anindividual analysis for selected rare earth elements is necessary.Principally, all deposits contain more light rare earth elements (LREE) than heavy rareearth elements (HREE). Mostly only a few percentages of the rare earths are HREE.Among them are the potentially critical elements dysprosium (Dy), terbium (Tb) andyttrium (Y). According to the chosen definition for this study the LREE comprise eightREE, among them are the widely used lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr),neodymium (Nd) and europium (Eu).Presently, no data on overall reserves of HREE are available. An estimation from theAustralian Mining company ALKANE for nine potential mines outside of China (onedeposit in Greenland and Vietnam, two deposits in the USA and Canada, three depositsin Australia) calculates economically available reserves of HREE of about 800 000 t andreserves of LREE of about 9.3 Mt. Furthermore, quite large reserves of HREE andreserves of LREE are located in China. Concerning European rare earth deposits, thereis only limited information on a few potential sites, and no extensive explorations areknown.
  38. 38. 18 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling4 Mining data4.1 World productionThe world production of rare earths in 2008 and 2009 according to USGS (2010a) is shownin Table 4-15.Table 4-1 World production of rare earths 2008 and 2009 (USGS 2010a) Country t REO Share per yearChina 120 000 97.0%Brazil 650 0.5%India 2 700 2.1%Malaysia 380 0.3%Other countries n.d.Total 124 000 100 %The table illustrates clearly the dominance of the Chinese production. The development ofthe rare earth production is shown in Figure 8.5 The table does not include the illegal production in Chinese mines. Kingsnorth (2010) estimates 10 – 20 000 t REO from illegal or uncontrolled mining.
  39. 39. 19 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling 140 Bastnasite-carbonatite period 120 Bayan-Obo deposit etc. (China) 100 80 Mountain Pass deposit (United States) 60 Monazite period 40 China 20 USA Others 0 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 YearsFigure 8 Global production of rare earth oxides [in thousand t] (Angerer et al 2009)The figure points out the steady increase in the rare earth production and the continuousincrease of the Chinese market share, particularly since 2002, when the American mine wasclosed due to environmental problems and low competitiveness because of low Chineseprices.4.2 Mining in ChinaThe following table shows the production of rare earth concentrates in China. The rare earthconcentrates are the output from the concentration plants which are located next to the minein order to produce a concentrate from the mined low-grade ore. The next step is thetransport of the concentrates to the further processing and refining plants where different rareearth compounds are produced. The statistics on the output of these processing plants aregiven in Chapter 5.1.Data sources are the Journal of rare earth information, the Chinese Society of Rare Earthsand the National Development and Reform Commission (MEP 2009)6.6 When verifying the data, it was found that the total value is not equivalent to the single values in sum. The differences range between -100 and +400 tonnes. Nevertheless, it was decided that the original data would still be used since it was not clear whether the deviation occurred due to a typing error, is just a rough estimate or whether there are differences because other types of minerals like xenotime were cut off.
  40. 40. 20 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingTable 4-2 Chinese production of rare earth concentrates from the different types of minerals from 2000 to 2007 in t REO Bastnaesite-Monazite-mixed Ion Adsorption Year Bastnaesite Total type deposits 2000 40 600 12 500 19 500 73 000 2001 46 600 9 400 24 700 80 600 2002 55 400 13 000 20 000 88 400 2003 54 000 15 000 23 000 92 000 2004 46 600 21 701 30 000 98 310 2005 49 000 25 709 44 000 118 709 2006 50 377 37 000 45 129 132 506 2007 69 000 6 800 45 000 120 800The total production in 2008 and 2009 remained constant at around 120 000 t REO (USGS2010a). In addition to the Chinese legal production as presented in Table 4-2, Kingsnorth(2010) estimates 10 – 20 000 t REO from illegal or uncontrolled mining, and the ChinaSecurities Journal (2010) reports illegal exports of about 20 000 t REO in 2009.The increase of the production figures of ion adsorption deposits from 19 500 t in 2000 to45 000 t in 2007 is very remarkable. It reflects the increasing demand of the HREE. On theother hand this sharp growth enhances the pressure on the very limited reserves of ionadsorption deposits.In May 2010, the notice on the consultative draft of “Entry Criterions for Rare Earth Industry”(MIIT 2010) was published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China.The aim is to improve the current situation of the rare earth industry in terms of lowerenvironmental impacts, higher efficiencies and optimised management practices as well asclosing regulation gaps. According to the 2009-2015 Plans for Developing the Rare EarthIndustry from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT2009), China will notbe issuing any new mining licenses of rare earths for the years from 2009 to 2015.The mining technologies, their ecological impact and future policy issues are described inmore detail in Chapter Mining activities outside of ChinaCurrently, only a few amounts of rare earths come from other countries than China aspresented in Table 4-1 (2 700 t from India, 650 t from Brazil and 380 t from Malaysia).Additionally, DOE (2010) indicates a Russian production of 2 470 t REO in 2009. Due to the
  41. 41. 21 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclinghigh demand for rare earth and the decreasing Chinese export, there are many activitiesaimed at the opening of new mines outside of China.The most advanced mining projects are re-opening of the Mountain Pass mine in Californiaby Molycorp Minerals and the new rare earth mine at Mt Weld in Australia by Lynas withprocessing in Malaysia. Their operation is scheduled to begin in 2012 and 2011, respectively.When operating at full capacity they will each produce around 20 000 t REO light rare earths.Their technologies and environmental aspects are described in Chapter 7.4.The next table gives an overview of further mining projects which are in an earlier stage. Thetable provides information on the potential annual production, the content of HREE and thestage of preparation. However, it is not certain whether these mining projects will be realised.There are many obstacles to overcome, such as technological challenges, environmentalproblems, funding of the capital intensive facilities and the approval procedures. If theenvironmental equipment is not appropriate, there are high environmental risks which areoutlined in Chapter 7. The main technological challenges arise in the further processing ofthe rare earth ores and their separation. There is a marginal know-how in the countriesoutside of China, and the chemistry of rare earths is quite complex. Compared to the difficultprocessing, the mining and the first concentration step is quite similar to the mining of othermetals and easier to handle.
  42. 42. 22 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling 7Table 4-3 Selected current pre-mining activities outside of China (compiled by Öko-Institut) HREE REO Output Country Deposit Content Stage of Implementation [t per year] (%TREO) Mine in operation; Mt. Weld 10.000 - 21.000 3% Construction of concentration plant Australia Nolans 20.000 4% Metallurgical Tests Dubbo 2.500 - 3.200 60% Construction of Pilot Plant Nechalacho / 3.000 - 10.000 20% Prefeasibility study Thor Lake Canada Hoidas Lake 1.000 - 5.000 4% Metallurgical test finished Benjamin River 30% Drilling Douglas River 99% Drilling Greenland Kvanefjeld 10.000 - 40.000 14% Prefeasibility Study Manavalakurichi, India 7.000 Chavara et al. Kazakhstan Feasibility Study Kirghizia Kutessay II 50% (Re-Opening) Malawi Kangankunde 5.000 Mongolia several Steenkampskraal 5.000 8% Feasibility Study South Africa Zandkopsdrift 20.000 Prefeasibility Study Mountain Pass 10.000 - 20.000 1% Re-Opening Bear Lodge 2% Scoping Study Bokan-Dotson Ridge 17% Drilling USA Deep Sands 5.000 15% Analysing drill results Elk Creek exploratory stage Pea Ridge Iron Ore Re-opening of iron mining Vietnam Dong Pao7 The data are compiled from manifold data sources (GWMG 2010a, GWMG 2010, RES 2010, Lynas 2010b, Oakdene Hollins 2010, Byron Capital Markets 2010, BGR 2010, GMEL 2010a, GMEL 2010b, USGS 2009b, Goldinvest 2010, Molycorp 2010, Ucore 2010, Thorium 2010, Wings 2010b, Bojanowski 2010 and home pages of the involved mining companies).
  43. 43. 23 Study on Rare Earths and Their RecyclingAdditionally, BGS (2010) reports about some further projects which are in an earlyexploration state in Canada, USA, Namibia, Australia and Malawi. The German companyTantalus Rare Earths AG started the geological sampling at a potential deposit inMadagascar (Tantalus 2010). Japanese companies are involved in the development of rareearth mining in Kazakhstan, Vietnam and India (BGS 2010, BBC 2010, Reuters 2010, DOE2010).The time span needed in order to start the operation of a mining including the concentrationof the ore depends on many site-specific factors. Based on the examples of the moderni-zation at the Mountain Pass and the new implementations of Mt Weld, the following timeranges can be estimated which are required for the implementation of new mining projects.However the time schedules for specific mines may vary significantly because every mininghas its specific challenges (environmental issues, type of mineral, type of mining, ore grade,financial equipment, social context, etc.): Feasibility studies, metallurgical tests, pilot plan: around four years Installation of the mining equipment: around one year Installation of the concentration plant to enrich the low-grade ore from the mine: around two years Installation of rare earth processing plants from concentrated ore: around four yearsThe approval procedure also requires several years and usually runs parallel to the projectdevelopment and implementation. The operation of the Mountain Pass requires more than 20permissions concerning environmental issues, building, work safety and others (Molycorp2010b). Oakdene Hollins (2010) estimates a minimum time of 6 – 10 years before a minestarts operation. USGS (2010f) gives an overview of the time needed for the approvalprocedure and the construction work since the discovery of the deposit. The time spans varysignificantly from 5 to 50 years.Another aspect concerning the opening of new mines and rare earth processing plants is thehigh investment. Oakdene Hollins (2010) cites a document from an OECD workshop in 2009with the estimate that typically capacity costs are more than 30 000 US$ per ton of capacityfor separated REE. The figures are in the same range as data on investment compiled byLifton (2010a) on mining and processing companies and their need of financial investmentfor the development of the rare earth production including processing: Molycorp (MountainPass, USA) more than US$ 500 million, Avalon Rare metals (Thor Lake, Canada): C$ 900million for the Northwest Territories project, Lynas (Mt Weld, Australia): US$ 500 million,Arafura Resources (Nolans, Australia) more than US$ 500 million. The major investment
  44. 44. 24 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recyclingcosts in this context arise from the processing. USGS (2010f) also confirms the need of largesources and capitals and outlines that already the pre-mining activities (exploration,metallurgical process development, approval procedure) cause high expenses.The specific production costs per unit of processed rare earth also show just a smallcontribution from the mining: Lynas (2010a) estimates the contribution of the overall cashcosts for process rare earth oxides (finished REO) as follows: Mining 4 %; concentration ofthe ore 21 %, shipping from Australia to Malaysia (9 %) and refining and processing 66 %. Conclusion on mining The world production of rare earths was around 124 000 t REO per year in 2008 and 2009 according to data from the US Geological Survey (USGS). This is quite low compared with the annual primary production of other metals, e.g. 39 Mt aluminium or 22 Mt copper. More than 97 % of the production and a large share of the further processing are located in China. Small amounts are produced in Malaysia, Brazil, India and Russia. Additionally, around 20 000 t REO were illegally produced in China and are not included in the above given USGS data. Due to the high demand for rare earths and the decreasing Chinese exports, there are many activities aimed at the opening of new mines outside of China. The most advanced mining projects are the re-opening of the Mountain Pass mine in California by Molycorp Minerals and the new rare earth mine at Mt Weld in Australia by Lynas with processing in Malaysia. Their operation is scheduled to begin in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Additionally, there are numerous further mining projects which are in an earlier stage in Australia, Canada, USA, India, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Malawi, South Africa, Vietnam and Madagascar. However, it is not certain whether these mining projects will be realised. There are many obstacles to overcome, such as technological problems, environmental problems, funding of the capital intensive facilities and the approval procedures. The time span needed in order to start the operation of a mining including the concentration of the ore depends on many site-specific factors and is estimated to take a minimum of six to ten years.
  45. 45. 25 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling5 Global rare earth processing5.1 Rare earth processing in ChinaIn terms of separation and smelting technologies, China owns internationally advanced rareearth technology. Since 1972, China has been conducting investigations on separation andsmelting technologies of rare earth. It is the only country in the world that can provide rareearth products of all grades and specifications, stated Lin Donglu, Secretary General of theChinese Society of Rare Earths in an interview by Xinhua News Agency’s finance magazine(Beijng Review 2010). By now, there are about 24 domestic enterprises for rare earth miningand 100 rare earth enterprises (11 among them are joint ventures) for separating andsmelting as well as refining production in China according to The Explanation of CompilingEmission Standards of Pollutants from Rare Earths Industry. Three major extraction areasare located in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and seven provinces in the South of China, mainly inJiangxi. Their technologies are described in Chapter 7.3.2.China not only produces the rare earth containing intermediate products such as metals,alloys or carbonates but also manufactures most of the final products, e.g. phosphors, LEDs,catalysts, Ni-MH batteries, magnets. Chinas government encourages its enterprises toextend the manufacturing of these products with a higher value using high-technology at theend of the process chain in order to supply the growing Chinese market as well as for export. 5.1.1 Production statisticsFigure 9 gives an overview of the rare earth oxide production in China in 2006 and thecontribution of specific elements. The detailed figures are presented in Table 5-2.
  46. 46. 26 Study on Rare Earths and Their Recycling Sm-, Eu-, Tb-, Er- Oxide Dy-Oxide Pr-Oxide 5% 3% 3% Gd-Oxide Ce-Oxide 6% 30% Y-Oxide 12% Nd-Oxide 15% La-Oxide 26%Figure 9 Share of individual rare earth oxides at the Chinese production in 2006 (MEP 2009)The following tables show the production of rare earth chloride, carbonate and selectedoxides, metals and polishing powder in China, respectively. Data sources are the Journal ofrare earth information, the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, and the National Developmentand Reform Commission (cited in the Explanation of Compiling of Entry Criterions for RareEarth Industry from 2009 (MEP 2009)).